The Islamic world’s worst enemy is Islam
Whatever happened to the Golden Age of Islam, when the Muslim world was the center of learning, mathematics, science, medicine, philosophy, art and architecture for six centuries (from 800 to 1400 AD), while Europe stagnated in the Dark Ages? During that time, Islam was a religion of enlightenment and tolerance. The Muslim empire also prospered financially by being the center of trade with both Europe and the Orient.
The rise of the Ottoman Turks, who took over the Muslim empire by conquest, changed all of this. They used the Islamic faith as a tool in their attempt to conquer Europe by declaring it a “holy war” against the “infidels.” They also closed the trade routes between the Orient and Europe, which had the unintended consequence of precipitating the decline of their empire.
Europe, awakening from its centuries-long sleep and entering into the Renaissance (largely as a result of its contact with the Muslim world during the Crusades) entered the age of exploration in search of ocean trade routes to connect with the Orient. The discovery of America and the riches from here that poured into the treasuries of the European nations provided the impetus and the means for the industrial revolution.
So Europe and its offspring, America, have advanced exponentially in technology, and with that advance, have progressed culturally, politically and socially, while the Islamic world has regressed and stagnated.
The one development that probably contributed most to the advance of western civilization was the Reformation, which broke the dominance of the Christian religion over the political system, science, and philosophical thought. In contrast, the imploding Muslim world, which was sinking into poverty, failed to separate government from religion.
As a result, it is dominated by fundamentalists who, as a means of cementing their power, prey upon the poverty of their people to instill a hatred for the success of Western culture and especially of the United States. When this dominance extends over the government, as it does in so many Muslim countries, it leads to a rejection of modernism, which puts them still further behind the rest of the world economically.
Among all the Middle Eastern countries carved out of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, only Turkey has become a modern western democracy. This was largely due to the efforts of one man, Mustafa Kemal Pasha (also known as Kemal Ataturk), who recognized that his country could not progress if it was dominated by the Islamic religion. He substituted a civil code for the Law of the Quran, adopted secularized education, and replaced Arabic letters with the Latin alphabet, paving the way for the westernization of Turkey.
It is interesting, and encouraging, that President General Musharraf of Pakistan commented at a recent international Islamic conference on science and technology in Islamabad that the Muslim world is backward and weak because of its suppression of education and aversion to technology. He stated, “The Muslim community is one-fourth of humanity, but is the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy, and indeed the most deprived and weakest of the human race.”
What remains to be seen is how seriously his wake-up call to the Muslim world will be taken. Or are Muslim societies too dominated by fundamentalist radicals who are more dedicated to their attempts to destroy western civilization than to improving the condition of their own people?
There is a lesson here for us in the United States. There is currently a concerted effort on the part of a determined group of fundamentalists to remove the separation of church and state, which is an integral part of our Constitution, and to turn this country into a theocracy. The obvious question is: a theocracy conforming to whose beliefs?
The framers of the Constitution, nearly all of them of English, Scottish or Irish descent, were Christian, primarily Protestant, but were firm in their determination not to give religion any place in government. This grew from their distaste for the Anglican Church, which had been imposed on the colonies by England. Patrick Henry at one point proposed that the Constitution include a provision requiring that the president must be of the Christian faith, but that suggestion was quickly rejected.
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, all influential in the creation of the Constitution, were united in their conviction that for the good of both, church and state should be two separate and independent institutions, with neither attempting to influence the other.
History offers many lessons in the pitfall of allowing either religion or government to dictate to the other. The diminished condition of nearly all of the Islamic countries is a perfect example.
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